I was very self-conscious about it. Looking back at pictures, I was definitely not as fat as I thought I was. In my head, I was huge. In pictures, I wasn't even really chubby, just slightly heavier than I was comfortable being. Then came college, and the Freshman 15--I gained that, and probably a little more. I carried that around for pretty much all of Freshman year & through the summer. Again, looking back at pictures, I remember feeling much fatter than I actually was (weird how that happens, huh?).
My Sophomore year in college, I decided that enough was enough. I was tired of being overweight, of feeling really self conscious about myself. I don't know when weight became such a huge defining thing for me, but somehow it had. I committed myself to losing weight-- I started going to the gym, watching what I ate, and I started losing weight. Everyone kept telling me how great I looked--and I felt better about myself, but I still kept seeing 'fat!' when I'd look in the mirror. From my perspective now, I like to say 'it was so much easier back then! all I had to do was go to class, the gym, an easy job at the library, and eat healthy food at the Commons!'
But, there is a different truth than that. One I gloss over. One I don't talk about. Yes, I was going to the gym, and I was watching what I ate, but I was not being healthy. I had an eating disorder. I would eat a 90 calorie snack, and a half of a sandwich (like the sandwiches you make at home, not subway/quizno's/togo's), and maybe a hard boiled egg. That's it. That's all I would eat all day. On top of that, I would go to the gym 5/6 times a week and run on the treadmill for at least an hour, if not more. If I couldn't go to the gym, I would freak out.
I didn't know I had a problem, but there should have been some clues. For instance, I distinctly remember being at work at the library, and finding a 90 calorie snack in my bag. (Special K made these really good snacks that were only 90 calories a pouch--they don't make them anymore, but they were so good. I called them yogurt chips, but I don't know what they were actually called). Anyway, I found a 90 calorie snack that I hadn't eaten from the day prior or something. I had already had my 90 calorie snack in my dorm room for the day, and I was still hungry (of course I was, my body was basically starving), and I couldn't resist and ate the extra 90 calorie snack. I was so mad at myself after I did that--I was doing so well, I chastised myself, then you went and ruined it with an extra 90 calories, you have zero self-control! In reality, it was 90 calories. Not that big of a deal--most diets can spare 90 calories here and there. But, to me, it was this giant thing--it was terrible, that I couldn't even resist (through my starving, mind you), a 90 calorie snack. This continued on for a couple of months--I would eat normally in front of my family, but at school, I just wasn't eating, really.
And everyone kept saying how good I looked. And I still looked in the mirror and saw how fat I was.
Here is a picture of me shortly before my Sophomore year in college ended, when I still thought I was fat:
|I'm in the white shirt-- still thinking I was HUGE.|
I didn't realize the error of my ways, I didn't suddenly get the picture, I didn't suddenly discover that I was not, in fact, fat. I think I just went home for the summer, and was forced to basically eat normally again, and ended up being healthy. The remaining years of college, I still thought I was fat, but I didn't go to extreme measures. I went to the gym about 3 to 4 times a week, and ate full meals at least twice a day (my junior/senior year I pretty much lived off of grilled cheese sandwiches and white rice for lunch).
I went through grad school, and managed to somehow keep the weight off--though, of course, the lingering thought 'you're so fat' was always at the back of my mind. At one point, after I moved back in with my parents, I remember getting Chipotle, and thoroughly disgusted with my lack of self-control (fast food, again?!), that I devised a plan. I would chew the food and spit it out, thus enjoying the taste but not ingesting all the calories. Yes, this is embarrassing to write, and pretty gross, but it's the truth. And the truth is sometimes both of those things. I sat on the floor of my room chewing pieces of burrito, and spitting them into a grocery bag, which I threw out after the "meal." I feel unbelievably sad recalling myself sitting indian style in front of my small TV, doing this incredibly destructive and weird thing, thinking that it was my only option. I did this for a few meals, but it didn't stick-- believe me, I know how crazy this sounds, but I felt such desperation. I thought 'this could be a solution to your fatness.' Until now, I'd never told anyone about that.
Meanwhile, this is approximately what I looked like at that time:
|I'm on the far right.|
I know what Body Dysmorphic Disorder is (read about it here), and there's no doubt in my mind that, at least on some level, I certainly suffer from it. I couldn't see it then, but I can see it now. I can see it now, looking back at those pictures where I thought I was fat, I know that something in my brain was not perceiving the image in the mirror correctly.
Which is what makes it so hard about the weight I've gained now. For me, the mirror may not be a reliable source of information, but the scale certainly is. And I'm a good 30 pounds from where I want to be, and at least 20 pounds from where I should be, medically. And it has made me withdraw. I don't want to see anyone because I've gotten fat, and of course they'll notice, and I'm embarrassed. I don't want to see anyone until I lose the weight.
I keep trying-- I keep leaving details out in my brain about what I did in college and telling myself 'you did it once before!' And I keep failing, remembering that this time it will be harder--to do it healthy will be harder.
The other day, Tom & I had our engagement shoot. I have been trying (and kind of failing) to lose weight for a few weeks now. I'll do well, and then fall off the wagon. The evening before the engagement shoot, I was getting really down and depressed--knowing I wasn't going to like any of the photos that were taken of me. Knowing I was going to look like a 'fat cow' (my brain's nice words to me) in all of them. Knowing that no matter what I wore, I would be hideous. I went to Target to try to find something to wear, and I stopped to get a soda, and somehow ended up with a small cheese pizza. I wasn't even that hungry-- I was just sad. And mad. And frustrated at myself. I ate the piping hot pizza (as I type this, I can still feel the burn on the roof of my mouth), and hated myself even more with every bite. When I was finally finished, I thought for the first time ever, very seriously about throwing it up. I thought about it the entire time I was walking around Target. I didn't do it, but I was seriously thinking about it-- and that was scary. It is scary. I've had anorexic thoughts, I've had severe restriction thoughts, but I've never had bulimic thoughts. Not real ones, anyway. Growing up, I had a disease called CVS, which basically caused me to throw up a lot--since then (perhaps, apparently, thankfully), bulimia has not been an option for me. So, the fact that it was nearly an option for me is genuinely frightening.
I went home and tried on outfits and felt increasingly hopeless, eventually having a meltdown and throwing on my pajamas, while trying not to cry. Eventually, I settled on some pants, a cardigan, a tank, and snazzy shoes. But the process was very eye-opening. I am always saying that I can't be too hard on myself when I make a mistake, but the truth is that I am hard on myself. Too hard on myself. And this might be why I so often spiral out of control. Instead of being like 'oh well, I ate three mini kit kats, I'll do better next time,' I turn it into 'of course you ate three mini kit kats, you have zero self-control, no wonder you're fat. You won't do better next time. In fact, you shouldn't even try to lose weight because obviously you can't do it, you'll just fail, so you might as well just have two mini butterfingers and a bag of microwave popcorn.' It sounds funny, and I actually laughed just now typing it, but in the moment, it really, really isn't.
So, what do I do? I want to lose weight-- I need to lose weight in order to be healthy. But how do I stop this? How do I stop beating myself up for failing the impossibly high standards I set for myself? I never go with 'baby steps.' And I think that's what I need to do-- I need to get out of the mentality that it doesn't matter if you walk a mile unless you also starve yourself. It's not true. If I can change my thinking, I can lose this thirty pounds, and I can do it the healthy way this time.
But, only if I can build myself up, instead of tearing myself down. Or, in other words, undo a lifetime of habit. I'll let you know how that one goes, but I don't really know how to start.